COPENHAGEN (AP) — The police foiled an attempt to kill an artist who drew a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the Muslim world, the head of Denmark’s intelligence service said Saturday.
Jakob Scharf, who heads PET, the Danish intelligence service, said a 28-year-old Somalia man was armed with an ax and a knife when he tried to enter the home of the artist, Kurt Westergaard, in Aarhus on Friday evening.
The attack on Mr. Westergaard, whose rendering was among 12 that led to the burning of Danish diplomatic offices in predominantly Muslim countries in 2006, was “terror related,” Mr. Scharf said in a statement.
“The arrested man has according to PET’s information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, Al Shabab, and Al Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa,” he said.
The man was suspected of having been involved in terror-related activities during a stay in East Africa and had been under PET’s surveillance, but not in connection with Mr. Westergaard, Mr. Scharf said.
The police shot the Somali man in a knee and a hand, authorities said. The police in Aarhus said that the suspect was seriously wounded, but that his life was not in danger.
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PET said in its statement: “The attempted murder of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is linked to terrorism. The person arrested… has close links with the Somali terrorist organisation Al-Shebab as well as with the heads of Al-Qaeda in East Africa.
“He is also suspected of being implicated in terrorist activities when he was in east Africa. The individual arrested has also been a member of a terrorist network implanted in Denmark that has been under surveillance by PET for a long time.”
Westergaard is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
The 12 cartoons were considered offensive by many Muslims and their publication sparked violent protests worldwide in January and February 2006.
Two Tunisians were arrested in Denmark in 2008 on suspicion of planning to murder Westergaard, and later released without trial after they appealed a government order for their expulsion on national security grounds.